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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mama Bear Moxie: Teaching little ones independence

By Kristina Phelan For The Spokesman-Review

In can be hard to transition out of caring for your child’s every need to teaching them how to care for themselves. Isn’t that what motherhood is though: Teaching our kids how to take care of themselves? Here are a few tips to help preschoolers gain a bit more independence:

Shoe hearts

Getting shoes on little feet is the pits. There were so many times when my kiddos were small that I would purposely pick out shoes that were more functional than cute. And thank goodness for Velcro straps and corkscrewed laces. When our daughter came home last year, I noticed she was having trouble figuring out the right from the left shoe. I saw a tip online that said to draw half of a heart on the inside of the shoe, so that it made a full heart when the shoes were together correctly. Doing this in all of her shoes has made a world of difference, and I no longer had to look down and see her walking like a duck.

Easily accessible cups

This tip I learned from a friend after visiting her house. Her kids wanted a drink, and they had all of their cups in a low drawer in the kitchen. They knew they could grab their own cup and use the water dispenser at the fridge. Brilliant! I stood in awe, realizing I had been storing my own kids’ cups up high and out of reach next to the glasses. I came right home and cleared a drawer for cups. Having this available to my kids has helped save time and energy.

Healthy snacks at eye level

I started doing this trick trying to subconsciously teach my boys to eat healthy foods. Instead of storing easy to eat fruits and vegetables in bags or in the crisper drawer, I took all of those items and placed them nicely on a shelf in the fridge that would be eye level for kids. I lined up the apples in a nice row and made sure the baby carrots and cucumbers were on the shelf as well. When my growing kids would open the fridge for a snack, their eyes would naturally look at these healthy items that were easy to grab. There are so many times when perfectly good produce is hidden in bags and gets forgotten in the back of the fridge. Take out those items and place them nicely in the fridge for quick and healthy snacks that you and your kids will enjoy.

Picture labels

When we brought home our daughter last year, I realized I needed to label things a little bit differently because she couldn’t quite read. We organized her dresser, and it quickly became an area of contention as everything was just thrown into any open drawer. I took a hint from teachers in my past and decided to print out clip art pictures to show where each piece of clothing should go. The pictures have been taped to the dresser for a year now, and it has gone well in making it easier for her to put away her clothes in the correct drawers. This idea would also work well for toy storage and teaching little ones responsibility in picking up messes.

If you have a little one that is trying to learn independence consider implementing some of these ideas into your home. Tweak the things that don’t work for you and let me know if you have any other tips and tricks for kiddos at home by emailing me at kristina@mamabearmoxie. com.

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois. www.mamabear Visit her website at

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